Greatest Player: Walter Payton
In 1975, exactly 10 years after selecting Gale Sayers with the 4th overall pick in the draft, the Chicago Bears selected another all-time great running back with the 4th pick. For those NFL fans who never had the pleasure of watching Walter Payton, his famous nickname “Sweetness” described his personality off the field — Payton was anything but sweet on the gridiron.
Payton was a bruising runner who refused to run out of bounds, and punished defenders until the whistle blew. As physical as he played, Payton missed just one game during his 13-year career.
Runner Up: Dick Butkus
What was the internal philosophy for the legendary linebacker Dick Butkus of the Chicago Bears? “If you can get someone who you’re competing against either fearful or intimidated, it’s going to make my job easier.” As one of the greatest tacklers in in NFL history, Butkus avoided trying to bring down ball carriers by the legs, and instead try to pick them up and slam them to the ground with such jarring forces that it would cause the ball carrier to fumble the ball.
It’s that tenacity and ferocity that led him to become the gold standard of which all future linebackers would hold themselves to. According to Hall of Fame defensive end Deacon Jones, Butkus “was a well-conditioned animal, and every time he hit you, he tried to put you in the cemetery, not the hospital.” In 2009, the NFL Network named Butkus the most feared tackler of all time.